Pumpkins. They are the harbinger of fall. The season hasn’t officially arrived until we see piles of pumpkins for sale at the produce stand or grocery store, or visit a local pumpkin patch to pick our own. We carve them. We paint them, We stack them and arrange them with hay bales and corn stalks. And then we enjoy them in a pie with a scoop of ice cream for Thanksgiving. But there is more to this versatile gourd than meets the eye. In fact, pumpkins are a power pack of nutrition that is low in calories and high in dietary fiber, and that’s not all. Take a look at just a few ways pumpkins prove there is a healthy surprise lurking behind that ghoulish grin.
Weight Loss. Pumpkins are rich in fiber, which slows digestion so it keeps you feeling fuller longer. There is more fiber in a cup of pumpkin than in two slices of whole-grain bread. And while pumpkin may be filling, it’s also low in calories. Canned pumpkin is nearly 90 percent water, so besides helping keep you hydrated, it has less than 50 calories per serving.
Sharper Vision. Pumpkin’s are loaded with beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for eye health and helps the retina absorb and process light. A single cup of pumpkin contains over 200 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, making it an outstanding option for eye health. Pumpkin also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that are thought to help prevent cataracts and may even slow the development of macular degeneration.
Improved Immunity. Want to be ready to fight off fall colds and seasonal flu? Pumpkins to the rescue! The amounts of vitamin A found in pumpkins helps your body fight infections, viruses and infectious diseases. And pumpkin oil can help fight various bacterial and fungal infections. Plus, pumpkin has nearly 20 percent of the recommended amount of daily vitamin C, which may help you recover from colds faster.
Younger-looking Skin. The beta-carotene in pumpkin helps protect us from the sun’s wrinkle-causing UV rays, and the pulp makes a great, all-natural face mask that exfoliates and soothes. Take 1/4 cup pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling), an egg, a tablespoon of honey and a tablespoon of milk. Mix, then apply it to your face, wait for 20 minutes and wash it off with warm water.
Lower Cancer Risk. The beta-carotene in pumpkins may also help fight cancer. Research shows people who eat a beta-carotene-rich diet may have a lower risk of some types of cancer, including prostate and lung cancer. Vitamin A and C, both antioxidants, shield your cells against cancer-causing free radicals.
May Help Control Diabetes. In scientific tests, pumpkin has been shown to reduce blood glucose levels, improve glucose tolerance and increase the amount of insulin the body produces. More testing is required, but with all of the other health benefits, adding more pumpkin to your diet certainly won’t hurt.
Prep Time: 20 minutes; Cooking Time: 50 minutes
1/2 of a medium pumpkin (about 2 pounds) cubed (Remove the pulp and seeds)
1 small yellow onion minced
2 cups rice
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 sprigs fresh Thyme
1 Tbsp olive oil Salt to taste
Directions: 1. Boil in a small pot 5 cups broth then set aside. 2. Place onions, pumpkin, (salt) and oil in a pot and cook on medium-high heat until soft (about 10 minutes) adding enough broth after 3 minutes so it doesn’t burn. Cover pan until pumpkin is soft (about 12 minutes). 3. Once soft, remove pumpkin and purée in blender, then return to the pot. 4. Next, add the rice and stir well. 5. Start adding additional broth, about 2 ladles full at a time, stirring frequently. 6. As the broth gets absorbed slowly add more broth, stirring well. Continue to simmer on medium heat. The texture should be creamy, but not too thick. If the rice isn’t fully cooked add another ladle of broth and stir well until absorbed. Cook rice until tender but firm to the bite. 7. Top with fresh thyme. For a festive serving idea, use a small to medium pumpkin with the top and all seeds and pulp removed to serve the risotto.